WarTech is Action-Packed, it’s got plenty of Spectacle to its battles and Levels, and while anybody with eyes can see how badly the developer fancied that Gundam or Armored Core License, War Tech is the “Little Indie Space Adventure that Could” and the Action filled Gameplay really does the trick… Usually anyway.
Clashing Personal Tastes
While I go in for Hardcore Realism, WarTech Fighters goes for nothing but Awesome. To the point of being… Well, Transformers-esque. I loved Transformers Prime. It was this CG marvel of a series that took itself seriously and felt like a genuinely Mature plot transpiring within a children’s Action Cartoon. This incarnation of Transformers, indeed the only incarnation I’ve really loved the series, it got Cancelled. Because Adults like me don’t buy enough Toys.
Comparatively, WTF is very much “One with the Bay-Side of the Force.” as it were. One might even say “The Bay is strong with this one.” and that’s perfectly fine! It’s not a bad thing at all. Michael Bay’s Transformers have been a Cultural Phenomenon not at all unlike the original Cartoon series was. This all being said, it also means that Stylistically, War Tech Fighters lays EXACTLY adjacent to my preferences. That said, I became much more invested in this game than I was initially expecting to.
Controls and Game Feel
In terms of Gameplay, on the other hand, WarTech manages a much better fit. Despite some issues like the aforementioned awkwardness of Vertical Movement in the game, the Controls can be Remmapped and indeed Mastered. I enjoyed my time spent blasting away at enemy vessels while spamming the Shield. The Difficulty of Hard and especially the Nut-burstingly difficult Heroic difficulty really left me satisfied, and every game needs a Survival mode. Always. And this game supplies that, a feature I sorely missed in my last Space Adventure, Subdivision Infinity DX. Missile Barrages are satisfying, and the Radar display…I gotta tell you, the Radar display of this game is brilliant. Rarely have I seen a display on a HUD that gave such readily useful information within a 3D environment. If you’re a developer and you want to pander to my peculiar tastes for whatever reason, Implement a readily readable Radar display illustrating the X Y and Z-Axis all at once. In some areas, it’s clear that a PC and Mouse might be the superior fit compared to a Traditional Controller. And in others, they clearly wanted and could have made great use of an increased Budget. The Customised Control Scheme that seems best for me remapped Up and Down to L1 and L2 respectively, with R1 and R2 handling Heavy and Quick Attacks.
Customizing your Mech is where you’ll find much of the Joy in this game, as is the case in most games of this Mechanically Inclined Action RPG Subgenre. It felt more basic than some other Mech Customizing games but also easier to comprehend and follow. I do wish that more parts available had more situational viability to each piece, whereas in this game there are many parts that are “Strictly Better Than” others, which is to say Identical in Function while offering superior stats. For instance, in AC For Answer, each piece may have a generally superior version, but that superior version requires more Energy from your Generator in exchange for its higher performance. Or perhaps weighs more than you might fit on your mech. You won’t find such Obstructive aspects here, and so you’ll usually know if a Part is right for you as soon as you see it in the Store. It’s Simpler and lends itself more to the Joys of Growing more Powerful rather than those of being a virtual Wrench Monkey like myself.
When you draw close to an Enemy WarTech, you may both change gameplay styles into a Close-Range Battle mode. And the control scheme completely changes with the exception of how you raise the Shield. You’ll face the enemy with each of you assigned to one side of the screen, and you’ll start dueling with your options limited to Light and Heavy Attacks or Raising your Shield (And dodging of course). I went through this again a few times while writing this review, afraid I might be giving it an unfairly bad impression, and I found that it sort of grows on you if you get your head wrapped around the inexplicable shift in gameplay. Personally I preferred to stay far from the enemy and blow them to Hell that way. BUT you may find Legitimate Utility in this mode if you are outgunned by the enemy and need to keep the Ballistic heat off while you battle them. I just don’t see the point unless I have invested my upgrades towards Melee Combat.
Exploration isn’t something I expected, but indeed a thing I surprisingly found. Each Level hides Hidden Project Parts. Which are pretty standard MacGuffin Tokens that you can redeem once you have the whole set in exchange for unlocking a new upgrade or line of upgrades? Surprisingly these feel significant and offer something tangible to work towards when replaying earlier levels in the Simulator. There aren’t many incentives like this, however, and Replayability could be enhanced by building on this feature.
In all seriousness, the game is well designed around its intended playstyle. Stylish Kills called Executions may be performed with a press of the Square Button, restoring both Health and Stamina, this encourages an Aggressive and almost 2016 Doom-Like playstyle while acting out the “Combat Chess” described by those very developers. I feel the Radar is very relevant to this, as it allows snap decisions at a glance and Situational Awareness becomes very important later in the game. It’s somewhat of a Microcosm to me of the game overall, this wasn’t thrown together haphazardly. It was very intentionally designed, the game is certainly silly but it isn’t stupid by any stretch of the imagination.
So, I like Gundam and Armored Core. And the Art Style of WarTech clearly draws much Inspiration from those franchises. But the look they ended up with at times comes off as a tad Generic. Not to say I’ve never seen folk create some memorable looking WarTech designs in their gameplay, but nonetheless this game could really use a more Unified Visual Direction for its Mecha. The Music, on the other hand, does a much better job of complimenting the energetic Gameplay and even manages to nail that somewhat Hyperactive tone the game seems to go for. Apart from the War Techs themselves and other Spacecraft… I hope you like looking at Asteroids.
It took a while for me to really get the vibe that WarTech was laying down. More time than usual. I’ve written this review across a very hectic period of Christmas intermingled occasionally with family Crisis. And initially, I was really put off by the tone and everything about it felt a little too disjointed. But when the Dust subsided and I could resume playing the game and writing at my own pace, it finally started coming together for me. I started enjoying the carnage of watching my Bright Blue Mech kicking smaller vessels in Executions or Diving straight through a larger Enemy Vessel to destroy it. I started enjoying the Hyperactive Guitar and the Occasionally Crazy pacing in Heroic Difficulty battles. I think what really changed it all up was my mindset. I started this off with a fresh head and the Intent of analyzing the Hell out of this game, as I usually do. But after the family crisis after the crisis, after the Holiday madness, all I wanted was to do something fun. And in that light, that’s the light War Tech Fighters shines best in. It’s Fun. It’s Cathartic to spend some time blowing things up and replaying a level to do better, Cathartic to be struggling against enemies in a seemingly hopeless situation and scraping out a win after 22 consecutive losses, Cathartic to see Growth and to Feel the Insurmountable become Manageable.
I think this game is worth your time. If it looks cool to you, you’ll probably enjoy it. Just don’t get all analytical or you’ll miss the point like I initially did. If at first, you don’t enjoy, take off your Nerd glasses and go roundhouse kick enemy fighters until you do. It’s not complicated, but it’s certainly fun.
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Robert Kelly Ball
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